Beyond Good & Evil HD Review
Before I begin, I have to say something concerning the style of gameplay in Beyond Good & Evil: you really don’t see this anymore. I mean, there’s such a diverse combination of various gameplay elements; these days, while many genres do adopt traits of other categories of interactive entertainment, we see so few titles that implement so many distinct mechanics. BG&E features exploration, storytelling, stealth, action combat, puzzle-solving, and several smaller gameplay components that continually spice up the experience. It still doesn’t gel perfectly and it does feel a touch outdated but it’s tough to argue against a surprisingly unique classic.
Thankfully, I own a PS2 copy of the game, so I was able to check out the significant visual upgrades thanks to this high-definition overhaul. Obviously, everything is sharper, clearer, and prettier overall. Furthermore, the colorful, inspired backgrounds and environments really benefit from the keener graphics; everything from the creative characters to the well designed landscapes receives a huge boost in terms of appeal. As the detail isn’t exactly stellar due to the antiquated appearance, the HD isn’t a panacea for all that originally ailed BG&E, but the excellent and even singular style maintains its charm. If you liked it before, you’ll probably love it now.
Not much has changed concerning the sound – at least, I couldn’t detect any significant differences – but the solid voice acting and decent soundtrack makes this an adventure worth having. I was never the biggest fan of the special effects, as they always seemed too muted and downplayed, but that can’t be helped. For the most part, the game remains entirely intact with the exception of that aforementioned facelift. The voices really help to cement the experience as an exotic and entertaining one; there are many different accents and speech patterns, and the main characters – especially Jade and Pey’j – are big highlights.
As I stated above, Beyond Good & Evil is a definite hodgepodge of gameplay mechanics and the naysayers will claim that such variety is the biggest drawback. After all, there’s a common rule- when an entertainment product – and this even pertains to artistic impressions, to some extent – tries to do too much, it never excels in anything. In other words, it does a lot of things well but nothing wonderfully. I suppose such criticism can be applied to this game, as there are minor issues with just about every gameplay element, but each still remains quite functional. The optimistic critic will say that nothing stands out as a glaring flaw.
With such a production, we’re most interested in answering one key question: “Regardless of the fresh graphics, how well does the game stand up over time?” I’ve played quite a few high-definition overhauls this generation and thankfully, BG&E stands up quite well, despite the old camera and general movement issues. It drove me a little nuts that I had to select “Reverse” for all camera options; I just wanted to invert the y-axis (as I always do) and not the x-axis but in the good ol’ days, when you invert one, the other has to be inverted, too. The camera also sits too close to Jade and that’s a problem that certainly hasn’t changed.
Overall control isn’t as tight as it should be, either, and I distinctly recall this shortcoming when playing the PS2 version. All this being said, the slick new HD sheen really brings out the game’s best points; I was frequently reminded of what made the original production so much fun. It starts with a bang and within the first hour, you’re exploring, solving, fighting, collecting, and working in tandem with a partner. The places you explore will range from dank caves and tunnels to lush, natural environments. We explore in a hovercraft, we attack with a sturdy stick (sorta reminds me of Donatello), and we upgrade our equipment Zelda-style.
It’s the epitome of “action/adventure.” It really is. It has a lighthearted, amusing plot with a few dramatic situations, and the atmosphere and ambiance is second-to-none. Sometimes it feels a little disjointed and the stealth aspects in particular feel somewhat unpolished, but the overarching theme is always alluring. One always wants to conquer the next section, to face the next boss, to solve the newest puzzle, to get that next pearl. And one feature is a completionist’s dream; as Jade is technically a reporter, she is tasked with taking pictures of the diverse life forms that roam the world. It can be difficult to capture certain creatures, but the payoff is big.
Beyond Good & Evil HD is quite simply a high-definition version of an established classic. This version enhances the good and diminishes the bad; although we should probably admit that time itself works to exaggerate the low points. Industry advancements have allowed for smoother, more accessible mechanics, and more fulfilling special effects. But great games keep the fun factor at their core; they’re always entertaining almost regardless of the passage of time. Action has gotten better. Graphics have gotten better. Even so, this extraordinary combination of gameplay elements and an exceptional aura remains captivating.
The Good: High-definition overhaul highlights the positives. Solid, diverse voice acting. A quintessential action/adventure experience. Singular attitude and style. Addictive gameplay. Good longevity.
The Bad: Camera can be an issue. Mechanics still suffer in some respects. The HD gloss can’t save all visual drawbacks.
The Ugly: “Right has to be left if I want down to be up…? Damnit.”
7/1/2011 Ben Dutka